The Printing “Office”

Printing Works (pictured in 1910) (from Kirklees Images)
Printing Works (pictured in 1910) (from Kirklees Images)
Printing Works (pictured in 1910) (from Kirklees Images)

Letterpress printers today use many terms for the space in which they work.  Ranging from the artistic ‘studio’ or ‘laboratory’; to the workaday ‘shop’ or grander ‘works’ there is still no agreement on what to call the space in which printing is done.  I especially like “Harpel’s Mercantile Job Rooms” but settle for my own “works” where printing is done and “office” where I look after this website and its sources.

The 1897 British Printer article, below, sets out the thoughts on ‘Printing Office’ from that time.

Referring to the use of the term “office” as the title familiarly given to a printer’s establishment, The Printer and Bookmaker says :— “The dictionaries do not recognise any meaning of office which would justify its use for a place where printing is carried on. Properly, the business office of a printing office is the only part of the establishment entitled to the word. The proprietor and the book-keeper or typewritist are the only ones who are really justified in saying, ‘We are going down to the office now.’ The typos, pressmen, et al., should say, ‘We are going down to the shop,’ if they wish to be exact. Custom has sanctioned office, however, and its use is probably sufficiently fixed to last for centuries. This being the case, it is time that the dictionaries recognised the meaning in which printers use the word, that the knights of the stick may be backed by lexicographical authority.”

Our dictionaries, however, do allow this meaning to the compound printing-office, defining it as “a place where the printing of books, newspapers, or general printing is carried on.” However the term may have come to apply, there is no doubt as to the general use to which it is now put.